ERARD, Saint and Bishop (fl. 730–754), was one of those Irishmen who, having left their native country to labour on the continent, were lost sight of at home, and are not mentioned in the native annals. According to his life by Conrad A Monte Puellarum (A.D. 1340), derived from a more ancient life in the church of Ratisbon, his brother, Hildulph, had gone forth as a missionary to the lower parts of Germany, and in course of time was chosen to the episcopal chair of Treves by the princes and people. Erard went to visit him, but, not finding him there, after some search discovered him living as a hermit in the Vosges ‘for the love of Christ.’ Staying with him for a time, he then remonstrated with him on his mode of life, and pointed out that it was his duty to take heed to the Lord's flock, and that there was more merit in preaching and teaching than in leading the life of a hermit. Influenced by this he gathered disciples round him, and Erard remained with him fourteen years in that region. Afterwards, having arranged for the oversight of his flock by placing in charge Adalbert, called, like Hildulph, his brother, but probably in both cases in a religious sense, he bade farewell to him, and going into Bavaria to preach arrived at Ratisbon. Thence he was divinely admonished to proceed to the Rhine and labour in Alsace. It was during this missionary journey that he baptised Ottilia, daughter of the Duke of the Allemanni, from whom Odilieburgh, near Liège, derived its name. The infant is said to have been born blind, and to have recovered her sight through St. Erard's prayers. Having accomplished his mission there, he returned to Bavaria and settled at Ratisbon. Here he passed the remainder of his life, and so much did he love the place that, ‘with his own hands, he dug a well of sweet water hard by the monastery.’ He was buried in the church attached to it. According to Ware some have made him bishop of Freisingen, others of Treves, and others again of Ratisbon; but the German writers deny that he held the bishopric of any of those towns. It has also been stated that he was bishop of Ardagh, or more correctly at Ardagh, before leaving Ireland, but the total silence of the native annals on the subject, and the absence of any mention of his name in them, render this extremely doubtful. It is possible he may have been a monastic bishop at Ratisbon according to primitive usage, and having no territorial jurisdiction is not mentioned in the lists.
It is needless to say that the foreign scribes have made sad confusion in the names, and doubts have therefore been expressed as to his native country. The second ‘Life’ in the ‘Acta Sanctorum’ terms him a ‘Goth’ (Gothus), an evident mistake for Scothus, the form in which the name of Scot is sometimes given. Again he is said to be of the Niverni, which is without doubt a corruption of Iverni, a form of Hiberni. Owing to these and other errors the numerous so-called lives of the saint which exist rather tend to confuse the facts of his history, and to obscure his nationality, some deriving his name from the German, others from the Hebrew; Erard, however, is a well-known Irish name.
The best account appears to be that of Conrad above referred to, from which the foregoing facts are taken. We are indebted for it to the learned Stephen White, who found it in the monastery at Ratisbon, of which he was canon, and communicated it to Archbishop Ussher.
The day of his death is 8 Jan., at which he is entered in the Irish calendars, but Alban Butler places him at 9 Feb., the day on which he is found in the Scottish lists.
The period of his death is so uncertain that Dr. Lanigan says he ‘dares not decide it.’ Various dates have been suggested from 675, which Dempster advocates, to 754, which is that of Ware, Colgan, and Baronius, and seems the most probable. He was canonised by Pope Leo IX in 1052.[Bollandists' Act. Sanct., 8 Jan. tom i. 533–546; Ware's Bishops, Ardagh, i. 248; Lanigan's Eccl. Hist. iii. 105; Todd's Liber Hymnorum Fascic. i. 103; Ussher's Works, vi. 299.]